Not If I Can Help It

A few thoughts on the assassination attempt:

Political violence is a super highway to fracture, civil unrest, and the erosion of democracy. It is to be roundly condemned in any form. Wherever it is the majority of Americans want to get, violence is never going to be the way. The attempt on Trump’s life is a tragedy and symptom of our particular American thirst for violence.

Now is not the moment to give in to our lowest, basest impulses. This isn’t the time for outrageous conspiracy theories, unfounded blame, and incendiary rhetoric. It took the internet five minutes to go fully insane. An innocent person died and it is shocking more didn’t. Our responses are telling.

God, which way are we going to go? Which direction are we going to steer? America is in a vice grip, and we have a choice. Our collective response is powerful.

Rachel Kleinfeld, an expert on political violence and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said this in POLITICO:

“You stop political violence through accountability, widespread condemnation from your own side and public revulsion. It’s all of us regular people saying we don’t want this in our society, and we’re going to change how we speak about the other side to make it less common.”

Garen J. Wintemute, the director of the Violence Prevention Program at the University of California, Davis, said to the The New York Times:

“It’s the job of that majority to make their views known, over and over again, and as publicly as possible. A climate of intolerance for violence reduces the chance that violence will occur. The question before us as a nation is, ‘Will violence become part of American politics?’ Each of us as an individual needs to answer that question, ‘Not if I can help it.’”

Remember that the wildest fringes do not represent almost all of the rest of us. Most conservatives and progressives are not blood thirsty and are actually sick to damn death of the inflamed, dehumanizing fringes sucking all the oxygen from the room. This is the moment for cooler heads to prevail.

We cannot control what a presidential candidate says, what TikTok says, what extremist elected officials say. We can only control what we contribute to the zeitgeist. We either reward extremist, violent behavior with our agreement (or silence), or we roundly condemn it and disincentivize the dark direction our country is taking.

“Not if I can help it” is our particular power, and we should use it.